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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  30 Mar 2012

BIOTECH: Entrepreneurship in Biosciences Boosted By New Programme


Recent Gauteng Business News

Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Qedani Mahlangu recently launched the Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) in Biosciences at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria.

The Innovation Hub is a subsidiary of Blue IQ Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd, which is an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development.

The GAP-Biosciences Programme is the first programme to focus on building entrepreneurial skills in the biosciences innovation sector in Gauteng.

MEC Mahlangu says that the aim of the programme is to ensure that biosciences researchers and postgraduates have the vital business skills to accelerate the establishment of viable start-up companies in Gauteng. “We are focused on building a knowledge economy in this province, so the importance of R and D and commercialisation cannot be underestimated,” she said.

The GAP Biosciences Initiative

The GAP Biosciences initiative forms the foundation of the Biosciences Park at The Innovation Hub which Premier Mokonyane referred to last month in her State of the Province address. “I am excited by the collaboration with the Departments of Science and Technology and Agriculture and Rural Development, whose contributions to this project are helping to achieve our vision of a Bioeconomy strategy,” continued Mahlangu.

The GAP Biosciences programme is a partnership with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and has been modeled on successful programmes the university has implemented. The year-long programme kicks off today with a workshop in Business Basics.

Delegates will hear from Professor Dennis Liotta, a skilled researcher and veteran of the drug discovery and development process who is the inventor of record for several clinically important agents, including FTC (Emtriva®, Emtricitabine), 3TC (Epivir®, Lamivudine), Reverset® (DPC 817, D-D4FC), Racivir® ((+/-)-FTC), Elvucitabine® (L-D4FC) and MSX-122, used by most HIV patients in the USA. Prof Liotta has approximately 70 issued US patents.

Blue IQ CEO Ms Amanda Nair explained that the second segment of GAP-Biosciences is preceded by a selection of six to eight semi-finalist teams who participate in an intensive five month programme, including a week-long Executive Education course presented by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and working with local and international mentors to develop business plans.

The winning team will be selected in December 2012. “They will receive a R400 000 cash prize, free incubation for a year at The Innovation Hub, continued mentorship, and business support for a year,” said Nair.

The Innovation Hub and GAP Biosciences

The Innovation Hub CEO McLean Sibanda says that The Innovation Hub is the perfect home for GAP Biosciences. “We have created a unique space for high-tech entrepreneurs, world-class businesses, academics, researchers and venture capitalists to meet, network and prosper. As Africa's first internationally accredited Science and Technology Park, The Innovation Hub is a knowledge-intensive business cluster that is ideally situated in Pretoria. We are very proud of our relationship with Emory University, which will help us to bridge the gap that exists between ideas and the market”, he says.

Last month, The Innovation Hub launched the Moringa Project, a pilot plantation of Moringa Trees with the potential to supply the biodiesel, food, feedstock, pharmaceutical, water purification and animal feed markets. It also celebrated ten years of the Coachlab programme: a postgraduate leadership programme in the fields of ICT and engineering.

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